University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan is known as one of the better recruiters in college basketball, a two-time national champion who has taken Florida from the bottom of the Southeastern Conference basketball hierarchy and made it a perennial contender for both conference and national titles. So it’s no surprise that Zach Hodskins, a senior shooting guard at Georgia’s Milton High School, this weekend decided to play his college basketball for the Gators.
What may surprise anyone who sees Hodskins on the basketball court is that he has a chance to play major college basketball at all. Hodskins was born with a left arm that ends just below his elbow — he has only one hand.
Florida’s preferred walk-on offer, which doesn’t give Hodskins a scholarship but guarantees him a spot on the team, isn’t just a nice gesture. Hodskins averaged 9 points per game and made more than 60 percent of his three-point attempts during his junior season, according to USA Today, and he had already drawn interest from mid-major programs like the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He can play, as he proved to AAU basketball coaches who finally gave him a chance when others wouldn’t, and as he has proven to scouts and recruiting services throughout his high school career. One scouting profile says he’s “talented” with “beautiful rotation on (his) shot.” Another says that his lack of a left hand “doesn’t create a disadvantage for him on the court” and that he “has the ability to play at the next level.” Watch this highlight video, and Hodskins ability is astounding:
There’s no doubt Hodskins’ story has the potential to inspire other young athletes with disabilities. He has already worked with the Make A Swish foundation and is the subject of a documentary, and playing at Florida will only increase his chance to show that a disability doesn’t have to keep kids out of sports, since the Gators regularly play nationally televised games on ESPN and CBS. But while he understands that role and his inspirational appeal, Hodskins’ main goal is to prove he belongs.
“I know that people who don’t know me sleep on me when I walk on the court,” he told USA Today last year. “They don’t think I can play or they don’t know what to think, but it’s when I hit those first few shots or when I go by them is when they wake up. That’s when they start playing me hard. That’s what I love. I know I’ve just earned their respect. That’s all I want.”